SAN FRANCISCO – IAC/InterActiveCorp has suspended a co-founder of its popular dating app Tinder in the wake of a lawsuit accusing him of sexually harassing a female executive of the company.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that Tinder’s founders engaged in “atrocious sexual harassment and sex discrimination” of the woman, Whitney Wolfe. Wolfe, also a co-founder, was the face of West Hollywood, California-based Tinder’s marketing efforts to young women, according to the suit.
The lawsuit paints Wolfe as instrumental in shaping Tinder, including coming up with the name after CEO Sean Rad proposed to call it “Tender.”
But the suit says that Tinder’s chief marketing officer, Justin Mateen, with whom Wolfe was involved in an on-and-off romantic relationship, engaged in “threatening and abusive behaviour” against Wolfe. That included Mateen repeatedly calling Wolfe a “whore,” including in front of CEO Sean Rad, and Mateen telling her that he was taking away her co-founder title because having a young woman with that title “devalues” the company.
When Wolfe “finally broke down” and agreed to resign in exchange for a “modest severance and the vesting of her stock,” the lawsuit states, Rad fired her instead.
“Although it is tempting to describe the conduct of Tinder’s senior executives as ‘frat-like,’ it was in fact much worse — representing the worst of the misogynist, alpha-male stereotype too often associated with technology startups,” the lawsuit states.
Technology companies from tiny startups to giants such as Facebook and Google have been criticized for the lack of women in executive and engineering ranks. Both Facebook and Google released diversity statistics recently that show that less than a third of their employees are female.
Tinder’s parent company, New York-based IAC, said in a statement that it has suspended Mateen pending an internal investigation. It added that while “it has become clear that Mr. Mateen sent private messages to Ms. Wolfe containing inappropriate content,” Wolfe’s allegations “with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded.”